Tag Archives: Fred Wilpon

Mets ranked sixth most valuable team in baseball


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

The Mets are the sixth most valuable team in Major League Baseball according to Forbes, possibly putting to rest concerns the team is underwater on the financial front.

Forbes listed the Amazin’s value at $811 million – a 13-percent increase from last year. The crosstown rival Yankees ranked first with a $2.3 billion worth.

Between the two teams are the L.A. Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies, respectively. The San Francisco Giants, who played at the Polo Grounds until 1957, ranked just behind the Mets – worth $786 million.

With the average value of a team at about $744 million, the Mets just place above the norm despite financial woes since the Bernie Madoff Ponzi Scheme reportedly put the Mets’ bank account in the red.

Co-owner Fred Wilpon said earlier this year, however, that the team was on its way back up and all money lost nearly five years ago has been remade.

 

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Mayor Bloomberg: Willets Point facelift to bring thousands of jobs


| tpetropoulosedit@queenscourier.com

willets2w

More than 12,000 construction jobs and 7,000 permanent jobs will come from the proposed Willets Point renovation, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, which includes retail space, a hotel and quicker access to the Van Wyck Expressway.

The reconstruction — to be funded by $3 billion in private investment, as well as $100 million in city capital for the demolition, remediation, infrastructure and permanent improvements — is expected to bring $4.2 billion in economic activity over the next 30 years.

The specifics of the long-awaited project were announced on June 14 during the Mayor’s meeting with the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

The city felt the plans for Phase 1 would best be done by the Queens Development Group, a joint venture of Sterling Equities, Inc. — owned by Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz — and Related Companies.

“For generations, Willets Point was neglected, no investments were made in the roads or in the sewers or in environmental remediation … and it remains one of the city’s most polluted sites,” Bloomberg said. “Each year, four million people visit the area. These are four million potential shoppers, local business and restaurants, creating thousands of new jobs and laying the groundwork for thousands of housing units.”

The plan includes the activation of the 126th Street corridor, building a 200-room hotel with 30,000-square-feet of retail and dining space. There will be an additional 20-acre parking area that can be converted for open recreation, it was announced, which will be open during the MLB offseason and during certain Mets road trips.

A new component, Willets West, is designated from a portion of the Citi Field parking lot to become one-million square feet of space for retail, entertainment and dining.

New off-ramps from the Van Wyck Expressway will be added after Phase 1 of the project is completed in the next 10 to 15 years to provide better access to the area. The off-ramps were approved in March by the Federal Highway Administration and the New York State Department of Transportation.

Still left open were tentative plans for affordable housing and a home for a planned convention center in the area — two concerns of Queens Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jack Friedman.

“We just hope the mayor’s vision, and the book he has with it, has all the chapters we want to see in it,” Friedman said.

Though affordable housing plans have been pushed back until after the project’s completion, many officials feel this is the way to bring new residents to the area.

“This is the way that you get to affordable housing,” said Seth Pinsky, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). “[The first phase of the plan] not only doesn’t preclude the development of the rest of Willets Point [including the affordable housing] but makes it more likely by activating the site and creating more magnets to draw people to the area.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo acknowledged on June 1 that talks for what would have been the largest convention center in the country near the Aqueduct Racetrack in South Ozone Park had fallen through. Not long after, officials began to eye Willets Point as a possible alternative.

If not Aqueduct as the convention center’s home, Friedman said Willets Point would be the most ideal and practical place for the center, based on its location.

State Senator Joseph Addabbo, who represents the area that includes Aqueduct and the Resorts World Racino, said he supported any kind of project that would benefit Queens and bring jobs. What Addabbo said was a time factor for Willets Point — environmental testing — had already been done at Aqueduct. The preparedness, he said, could relieve the push for time.

State Senator Jose Peralta released a letter to Governor Cuomo, two days before the official announcement, asking the governor to consider Willets Point for the planned convention center. Frank Sorbino, a spokesperson for the senator, said the mall announcement would not deter courting developers to Willets. Rather, he said, it would help the region’s case.

“This does not preclude the building of a convention center,” he said. “If anything, it makes Willets Point an even more attractive site for a convention center.”

Meanwhile, some property owners of long-established businesses at Willets Point continue to cry foul ball at what the city and the Wilpons may call a home-run.

“This is why the city initiated condemnation against local landowners? To get a hold of private property and hand it over to the Mets and their partner for the sum of $0? This project needs to be stopped in its tracks and the question of Willets Point should be set aside until a new mayor, one not imbued with a spirit of crony capitalism, is elected,” said Jake Bono, owner of Bono Sawdust.

Michael Rikon, the attorney who represented Willets Point property owners during their fight against eminent domain, said he predicted — while challenging the condemnation — that the taking would only benefit Sterling Equities and the Wilpons.

“Now here it is. We hit it directly on the nose,” Rikon said. “This is a figment of Bloomberg’s imagination. It’s really outrageous. There are still properties that are privately owned — they don’t control the entire site.”

Rikon said 152 businesses — and 654 people, the vast majority Hispanic — would be directly affected during Phase 1 of the project.

Jennifer Friedberg, spokesperson for the NYCEDC, said 95 percent of the project area is currently in city control. Relocation and worker assistance programs, she said, would be provided by the city to businesses in the 23-acre Phase 1 affected area.

But Rikon said already existing environmental concerns and the fact that the site “looks like a piece of Swiss cheese” make the project seem even less plausible.

The streets are pockmarked with deep craters and the area lacks necessary sewers and sidewalks. But Willets Point United, a group formed to oppose the city’s plans to take over the area, said the city deliberately neglected the area — despite the group’s push for years to have the severely deteriorated streets repaired.

“The whole thing is just mind-boggling,” Rikon said. “There’s no affordable housing in this thing. It’s a giant shopping mall. There’s absolutely no need for it, and it’s just going to benefit a private developer.”

But for property owner Danny Sambucci of Sambucci Bros. — a family-owned and operated Willets Point business since 1951 — the decision to strike a deal with the city, for an undisclosed amount, was a better business decision and meant less strife.

“If you’re dealing with the city, it just seemed like the wise thing to do,” he said.

— With additional reporting by Tim Petropoulos

Mets to host 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Citi Field

Next year, the Mets home will field an all star at every position.

Commissioner Bud Selig, Mets owner Fred Wilpon and Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that Citi Field will host the 2013 MLB All-Star Game at a press conference Wednesday, May 16. This marks the ninth time the Midsummer Classic will be played in the city.

“Next year’s All-Star Game is going to demonstrate once again that there’s no place like New York for world-class sporting events,” said Bloomberg. “Major League Baseball clearly recognizes this, since they’re bringing the All-Star Game back to New York for the second time in just five years.”

Yankee Stadium held the game in 2008, its final season.

The Mets last played host to the annual gathering of the game’s greatest players in Shea Stadium’s inaugural season 1964.

That game featured Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Sandy Koufax, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Frank Robinson. The National League pushed across four runs in the ninth and won thanks to a Johnny Callison walk-off home run.

“It’s a great honor for everyone at the Mets to host the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field,” said Wilpon, who has “dreamed about this” for quite a while.

Queens baseball fans anxiously await the game that decides home field advantage for the World Series.

“I went to the All-Star Fan Fest when it was at Yankee Stadium, and it was pretty cool,” said Corona resident Edwin Rodriguez, a die-hard Mets fan. “So I’m excited about going to that again and just representing the fan’s here now it’s coming to Citi Field.”

“I want to go to the whole thing,” he said. “I want to go to the home run derby.”

The game and home run derby will be part of a “five day celebration of [the] great sport,” Selig said, adding that more events will be announced for the festivities that will run between July 12 and the game on Tuesday, July 16.

The “big news for baseball fans” will also provide the city with $192 million in economic impact and draw more than 175,000 visitors to the city, Bloomberg said who received two Mets jerseys with All Star and New York emblazoned across the back above the number 13 from Wilpon.

“I plan to go,” said Joshua Fermin. “If [my friends] are going to come with me I’ll definitely be there.”

— Additional reporting by Liam La Guerre

Patience running thin in Queens


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

photo - rotundaw

Hope may spring eternal, but patience is running thin in Queens.

The New York Mets enter the 2012 season as significant underdogs in one of Major League Baseball’s best divisions. As good as the National League East became this offseason – with Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle joining the Miami Marlins, the emerging Washington Nationals getting scarier by the day, and the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves still going strong – the Mets did little to help their chances of shocking the baseball world this year.

Supporters stopped coming to the ballpark by the thousands in 2011, and attendance will likely suffer again this season with the Mets projected to be the NL East cellar dwellers. The only thing more frightening than the Mets’ bullpen is the team’s lineup – go ahead tell me the batters hitting one through eight…don’t worry, I’ll wait for you to stop gasping for air.

Fans are beginning to get fed up with the product on the field, lack of exciting new talent, ownership’s financial troubles and the out-of-control injury situation – seriously, how was the entire medical staff not sent packing after Ike Davis’ initially ordinary ankle injury cost him the entire 2011 campaign?

Despite no significant additions being made to the team – during one of the most talented free agent pools in history, I might add – there are certain developments Mets fans can actually look forward to this season.

First and foremost, the Wilpons settled their suit with the victims of Bernie Madoff and had only moderate damage – a measly $162 million over five years – compared to the $303 million the Mets owners would have paid if they lost in court. The Wilpons have already completed the sale of 12 minority shares of the team for $240 million and repaid $65 million in loans, and they have now reportedly promised to begin reinvesting in the club again.

The agreement should allow the owners to cease selling any more of the team like they are homes of MC Hammer and settle down financially. Mets fans can begin dreaming again of days when free agents flock to Willets Point to don the blue and orange.

Johan Santana returned to his rightful place as the team’s Opening Day starter on April 5. Santana, who missed the entire 2011 season with a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder, can make Mets fans gleeful once every five games – if, and it is a monumental IF, he is healthy and looks remotely like he did before getting injured. Santana has always been a pleasure to watch, and he should draw crowds on the days he hits the mound.

The starters are the sole visible bright spot for the team, with Santana, the tireless R.A. Dickey and youngsters Dillon Gee and Jonathon Niese – who will hopefully take another step forward this season. The Mets can also feel optimism about hurlers Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler soon joining the big leagues.

Lastly, 2012 marks the 50-year anniversary of the Metropolitans, and the organization has planned a number of festivities to commemorate the milestone, including the return of Banner Day and a series of alumni bobblehead giveaways representing each decade of the team’s history.

This should keep Mets fans’ minds and eyes away from the field – at least the organization hopes so.

Mets owners settle with Madoff trustee for $162 million


| jlane@queenscourier.com

The Mets owners and a trustee for Bernard Madoff’s fraud victims have settled for $162 million. The Mets owners will not pay anything for three years. Jury selection had been set to begin in a civil trial to determine how much the team owners will owe other investors who trusted their money to Madoff.

Read more: New York Post

 

 

‘Another step closer to the new Willets Point’


| smosco@queenscourier.com

The chop shop wasteland that is Willets Point continues to inch toward a rebirth.

According to published reports, major developers and the owners of the New York Mets are among the firms that submitted Requests for Proposal (RFP) for the right to develop the site adjacent to Citi Field in Flushing.

Sterling Equities, which is controlled by Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, teamed up with The Related Companies and submitted a proposal to develop phase one of the project, which covers 12.75 acres. Other bidders include Flushing-based TDC Development and Silverstein Properties – the latter of which is building three towers at the World Trade Center site.

Though the firms would not comment on the proposals, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYC EDC) said that it has received numerous proposals and that each one will get a fair review and equal consideration.

“After receiving numerous responses for the first phase of development, we are another step closer to the new Willets Point,” said EDC spokesperson Jennifer Friedberg. “This project will create thousands of jobs and allow an environmentally contaminated area to become a model center for economic growth for Queens and New York City. We are eager to continue examining the proposals and to create the blueprint for the future of Willets Point.”

The effort to redevelop Willets Point – dubbed “The Iron Triangle” – has been a long and arduous process and requires several steps before a shovel can be put in the ground. The site requires environmental remediation, infrastructure upgrades and land acquisition leading up to the project, which the city has split into three phases, covering 61.4 acres and approximately nine million square feet of development.

While the city controls a majority of the land, the remainder might have to be scooped up by Eminent Domain. The first phase, which includes housing and retail, is projected to be completed by 2016 and the entire Willets Point project is scheduled to be finished by 2022.